(That turn out juicy and flavorful every single time!)
Getting juicy grilled chicken is pretty easy if you’re working with dark meat, especially if it has the bone in and skin on. It’s different when you’re grilling boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Breasts are the least fatty (and least flavorful) part of the bird, and there is no skin there to hold the flavors in. It’s really easy to grill chicken breasts that turn out dry and just not worth it. But guess what? It’s also pretty easy to make sure your healthy grilled chicken breasts turn out charred out the outside and tender on the inside every single time. I’m writing an upcoming post that uses grilled chicken breasts, so I figured it would be nice to have the method here. It’s a really useful recipe in the summer or if you’re trying to stay healthy.
Here’s one little tip I have about buying chicken breasts or actually chicken, in general. So you’re in the store and there’s chicken pieces out in individual styrofoam trays. You may think it’s smarter to buy the heaviest one– the one with the biggest breasts or thighs, or whatever. But it’s not! If 2 packages both have 6 breasts, but one is a pound heavier, pick the lighter one. The smaller the pieces, the more flavorful they are. Kind of like how a Cornish hen is more flavorful than a chicken, which is more flavorful than turkey– bigger is not better. If you’re like me, and you buy in bulk– it’s better to have 5 pounds of 10 breasts than 5 pounds of 5 breasts.
The key to getting a juicy grilled chicken breast is to keep it from drying out. The way I cook it is kind of like braising, but on a grill. Instead of searing the chicken on all sides and then adding it to a covered Dutch oven with liquid, I sear it on the grill and create a steam packet to finish cooking it without drying it out.
For the marinade, you can use just about anything. For my upcoming post, I used a bottle of light balsamic vinaigrette dressing. But you can use barbecue sauce, buffalo wing sauce, any salad dressing or marinade of your choice. The important part is that you marinate it for a long time.
If it’s a vinegar based or acidic marinade (like balsamic vinaigrette), don’t marinate it for more than 12 hours. If it’s more of a saucy marinade (like barbecue sauce), you can marinate it for up to 36 hours. The reason is that a really vinegary marinade will actually start to cook the chicken if it’s left on too long (think ceviche, but gross). If the marinate only has a small amount of vinegar, it won’t have the same effect –at least not very quickly.
I’ll also tell you to how to get those nice cross-hatches on the top of the breasts.
Here’s how I do it—
Total Time: 40 minutes plus 12 hours marinade time
Yield: 4 breasts
Difficulty Level: Easy
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
16-24 ounces marinade of your choice
Non-stick cooking spray
- Add the chicken breasts to a non-reactive container (like Tupperware). Pierce the chicken with a fork on all sides to tenderize.
- Pour the marinade over the chicken, cover the container, and refrigerate for 12 hours.
- Preheat a gas grill to high, and take the chicken out of the refrigerator to let it come to room temperature.
- Turn the grill down to medium-high. Carefully spray the grill with non-stick spray, and put the chicken on the low rack of the grill, bottom side down. Cover, and cook for 3-4 minutes.
- Spray the grill again. Turn the chicken over, and place each breast at a 45-degree angle to the grates. Pour about an ounce of marinade (reserve most of it for later) into the bottom crevices of each breast. Cover, and cook for 3-4 minutes.
- Rotate the chicken at a 45-angle to create the cross-hatch. Cover, and cook for 3-4 minutes.
- Spray the grill again. Flip the chicken over. Cover, and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
- Turn the grill down to low. Use a large piece heavy duty aluminum foil to create foil pouch for the chicken. Put the chicken in the foil, pour the rest of the marinade over the chicken, and wrap it up as tightly as possible.
- Put the chicken foil pack on the upper rack of the grill, cover, and cook on low for a final 10-12 minutes.
- Remove the foil pack from the grill, and let it rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing.